A story from the liars at the New York Times. Is it true?
(Could this be why most Saudis choose Friday night for most family gatherings?)
Saudi Arabia Awakes to the Perils of Inbreeding
Across the Arab world today an average of 45 percent of married couples are related, according to Dr. Nadia Sakati, a pediatrician and senior consultant for the genetics research center at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.
In some parts of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the south, where Mrs. Hefthi was raised, the rate of marriage among blood relatives ranges from 55 to 70 percent, among the highest rates in the world, according to the Saudi government.
Widespread inbreeding in Saudi Arabia has produced several genetic disorders, Saudi public health officials said, including the blood diseases of thalassemia, a potentially fatal hemoglobin deficiency, and sickle cell anemia. Spinal muscular atrophy and diabetes are also common, especially in the regions with the longest traditions of marriage between relatives. Dr. Sakati said she had also found links between inbreeding and deafness and muteness.
Saudi health authorities, well aware of the enormous social and economic costs of marriage between family members, have quietly debated what to do for decades, since before Mrs. Hefthi was married 23 years ago. Now, for the first time, the government, after starting a nationwide educational campaign to inform related couples who intend to marry of the risk of genetic disease, is planning to require mandatory blood tests before marriage and premarital counseling.
Health officials and genetic researchers here say there is no way to stop inbreeding in this deeply conservative Muslim society, where marrying within the family is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years.
Today, when most unions are still arranged by parents, marrying into wealth and influence often means marrying a relative. Social lives are so restricted that it is virtually impossible for men and women to meet one another outside the umbrella of an extended family. Courtships without parental supervision are rare.
Among more educated Saudis, marrying relatives has become less common and younger generations have begun to pull away from the practice. But for the vast majority, the tradition is still deeply embedded in Saudi culture.
Statistics on the prevalence of genetically based diseases and the extent to which they are a direct result of marriage between close relatives — second cousins or closer — are scarce or unreliable because many Saudi parents raise their disabled children in obscurity, ashamed to seek services.
That has begun to change as more programs intended to educate disabled children open in Saudi Arabia, where there were almost none until a decade ago. Genetic research is emerging here and several projects have recently begun in an effort to document the connection between inbreeding and disease and to quantify the prevalence of the diseases.
In the case of spinal muscular atrophy, if both parents are carriers of the gene, the couple has a 25 percent chance of having a child with the disease — or one in four children. The percentage regrettably turned out to be much higher for Mrs. Hefthi and her husband, with four out of their seven children afflicted.
But remember the dangers still inherent in outbreeding (or the act thereof):
Image courtesy of Peoplescube.com
“People have to breed first in order to find out if they’re inbreeding. How else could they tell?”
-Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), and the U.S. Speaker of the House at the time the Obamacare law was passed.